Coronavirus updates, November 20: Latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic from Pakistan and around the world

Nationwide confirmed cases jump past 368,000; death toll crosses 7,500; global death toll tops 1,365,000

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan rose to 368,665 on Friday after 2,738 new infections were confirmed in the country.

The province-wise break up of the total number of cases as of 11:59pm, November 20, is as follows:

Total confirmed cases: 368,665

• Sindh: 159,752

• Punjab: 112,893

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 43,359

• Balochistan: 16,642

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 25,719

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 4,494

• AJK: 5,806

Deaths: 7,561

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 1,319

• Punjab: 2,811

• Sindh: 2,780

• Balochistan: 158

• Gilgit-Baltistan: 93

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 266

• AJK: 134

More than 57,239,964 people have been reported infected with the novel coronavirus globally and over 1,365,000 have died, according to the worldometre's tally.


11:42pm — Madrid, Spain — Spain eyes 'substantial' vaccination in first half 2021, contagion slows

A substantial part of the Spanish population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the first half of 2021, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday, highlighting also a steadily slowing pace of contagion after restrictions imposed in recent weeks, Reuters reported.

The government has set aside over 1 billion euros for coronavirus vaccines next year and created a committee to establish who comes first.

Sanchez told a news conference the government would unveil a vaccination plan on Tuesday, without elaborating.

Promising data from Phase III trials of potential vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and others has recently boosted hopes that vaccines against the pandemic disease may be ready for use soon.

11:22pm — Washington, US — White House aide Andrew Giuliani tests positive for COVID-19

Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and son of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said on Friday he had tested positive for COVID-19, Reuters reported.

"This morning, I tested positive for COVID-19," the younger Giuliani, who joined the Trump White House's Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs in 2017, said on Twitter. "I am experiencing mild symptoms, and am following all appropriate protocols, including being in quarantine and conducting contact tracing."

10:55pm — Europe's COVID-19 cases surpass 15 million mark: Reuters tally

he number of coronavirus cases in Europe surpassed the 15 million mark on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, as the region sees a surge in infections with the onset of winter, reporting a million new infections about every four days.

Europe has so far witnessed at least 15,046,656 reported infections and 344,401 reported deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, accounting for a quarter of global infections and deaths reported.

While it took the region nearly nine months to record its first 5 million cases, the next 10 million cases were reported in less than two months, according to a Reuters analysis.

With just one-tenth of the world’s population, Europe accounts for 26% of the global case load of 56.9 million and 25% of the 1.3 million deaths worldwide. Of every 100 infections last reported worldwide, about 39 were reported from countries in Europe.

10:44pm — UK, London — Britain asks regulator to assess Pfizer vaccine for suitability

Britain has formally asked its medical regulator, the MHRA, to assess the COVID-19 vaccine being produced by Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech, health minister Matt Hancock said, Reuters reported.

The announcement follows news that Pfizer said it would apply to U.S. health regulators for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its vaccine, the first such application in a major step toward providing protection against the new coronavirus.

"Here in the UK, the first step for authorising a vaccine is for the government formally to ask the independent regulator ..., the MHRA, to assess its suitability," Hancock told reporters.

"I can confirm that the government has formally asked the MHRA to assess the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for its suitability for authorisation."

10:30pm — New York, US — S&P 500, Dow dip on concerns over rising COVID-19 infections

The S&P 500 and the Dow slipped on Friday with a surge in coronavirus cases threatening to derail a fragile economic recovery, even as plans were announced for ending several of the Federal Reserve's economic support programs, Reuters reported.

The Nasdaq edged 0.2% higher, boosted by a rise in shares of stay-at-home darlings Zoom Video Communications Inc and Inc.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday defended his decision to end several of the Fed's pandemic lending programs on Dec. 31, saying Congress should use the money to help small U.S. companies with grants instead.

The decision to end the programs, which were deemed essential by the central bank, comes as data showed a rise in jobless claims last week as new restrictions to control spiraling COVID-19 infections likely led to a fresh wave of layoffs.

"From a psychological standpoint it (expiry of certain Fed loan programs) could make people a little nervous," said Mike Zigmont, head of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management.

"But the facility that is being terminated hasn't been utilized, so the fact that it's going away in December is not going to have a direct impact on anything."

10:00pm — Prague, Czech Republic — Czechs to allow more children in school as COVID cases drop

The Czech Republic will allow more children to go to school and ease some other restrictions as the numbers of new coronavirus cases and hospitalised patients fall, Health Minister Jan Blatny said, Reuters reported.

The government said that the country which suffered one of Europe's worst autumn outbreaks of the pandemic would move on Monday from the top risk level 5 to level 4 on its scale of curbs.

Elementary schools, open since Wednesday for first and second graders, will fully open for lower-grade pupils from Nov. 30, while the rest will return on a rotating basis.

Some final-year high school students and some university students can return to presence learning on Wednesday.

Level 4 also moves curfew and store closing hours to 11 p.m. from 9 p.m. and allows the assembly of six people instead of two.

Blatny, speaking at a news conference, also assured Czechs that stalls selling Christmas trees, decorations and live carp for traditional Christmas Eve dinners will be allowed.

9:30pm — Rome, Italy — 37,242 new coronavirus cases, 699 deaths reported

Italy has registered 37,242 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, up from 36,176 the day before, Reuters reported.

The ministry also reported 699 COVID 19-related deaths, up from 653 on Thursday.

There were 238,077 coronavirus swabs carried out in the past day, the ministry said, against a previous 250,186.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 48,569 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain's. It has also registered 1.346 million cases.

9:13pm — Shanghai, China — Two local coronavirus cases reported

China's financial hub of Shanghai said it had confirmed two coronavirus cases in a married couple in the city's Pudong district, its first locally transmitted COVID-19 infections in 11 days, Reuters reported.

A 39-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman were reported as suspected cases on Friday afternoon and their nucleic acid tests returned positive results, the Shanghai government said in a statement.

A team of experts is tracking people who may have been exposed and taking appropriate preventative measures, it added.

8:55pm — Geneva, Switzerland — Wealthy countries block COVID-19 drugs rights waiver at WTO 

Wealthy nations reiterated their opposition to a proposal to waive intellectual property rules for COVID-19 drugs, three trade sources said, despite pressure to make an exception to improve access to drugs for poorer countries, Reuters reported.

Supporters of the waiver say existing intellectual property (IP) rules create barriers on access to affordable medicines and vaccines and they want restrictions to be eased, as they were during the AIDS epidemic.

But opposition from the European Union, the United States and some other wealthy nations at a meeting on Friday, means the proposal set to go before the World Trade Organization's (WTO) General Council next month is likely to fail.

"If rich countries prefer profits to life, they will kill it by tying it down in technicalities." said a delegate supporting the motion who attended the closed-door meeting.

The 164-member WTO body usually has to agree by consensus unless members agree to proceed to a vote, which is exceptional.

WATCH: WHO's media briefing on COVID-19

8:21pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — Scientists develop AI based diagnostic software to detect COVID-19

Pakistani scientists for develop ‘COVRAID’ — an AI based diagnostic software to detect COVID-19. 

"Pakistan stands ready and willing to explore collaborations and partnerships to share this technology with the world," says Science Diplomacy Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

8:07pm — Geneva, Switzerland — WHO makes conditional recommendation against use of remdesivir

WHO has made a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival or reduces need for ventilation in these patients, it said in a tweet.

7:47pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — ICT registers 447 new cases

7:30pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistani people's jobs were protected during pandemic, says Faraz

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said people's livelihoods were protected in Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic, as opposed to the trend in the rest of the world.

In a statement, he said people in "other countries were let go [from their jobs] but, in Pakistan, no one was fired from their job".

Faraz added that it was observed that more people than required were hired in the public institutions. "At present, the government is running all the institutions with its funds," he said. 

"Some drastic steps have to be taken to bring the institutions to the top," he noted, adding that the government's goal was to improve them despite such measures denting the regime's popularity.

7:20pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Over a third of Sindh's cases detected in port city

More than 33% of the coronavirus cases reported in Sindh over the past 24 hours were from Karachi, according to the data provided by the Chief Minister House.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said 929 out of the 2,776 new coronavirus cases were detected in Karachi. Of these, 333, 273, 94, 92, 75, and 62 were reported from the South, East, Central, West, Korangi, and Malir districts.

Shah urged people of Sindh to follow SOPs to save themselves and their families.

6:25pm — Islamabad, Pakistan — 14 restaurants sealed after violating SOPs

Authorities in Islamabad have sealed 14 restaurants that were found in violation of coronavirus Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs).

The district administration said that the restaurant owners were slapped with fines, while seven people were arrested. 

6:10pm — Ankara, Turkey — Passengers from Turkey to Pakistan will need PCR tests from Nov 27

6:00pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh records 1,276 cases, 19 deaths

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, in a statement, said that the province has registered 1,276 cases and 19 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The chief minister said that with the new tally, deaths stood at 2,799 and infections rose to 161,028 — with a positivity ratio of 10%.

However, he said that 145,143 patients had recovered that translates into 90%.

5:50pm — Karachi, Pakistan — Dow University tells students it is not responsible if they contract COVID-19

The Dow University of Health Sciences, in its new coronavirus SOPs, has told students that it will not be responsible if students contract COVID-19.

The university’s newly issued letter said that students need to sign a Rs50 undertaking form and undergo a COVID-19 test to enter the university.

5:38pm — Lahore, Pakistan — Maryam Nawaz dons ‘vote ko izzat do’ mask 

“While a mask gives you protection from COVID-19, ‘Vote ko izzat do’ narrative & struggle will protect you from ‘Covid-18’ & all such future attempts, Insha’Allah. Protect yourself, protect your vote,” she said.

5:00pm — Peshawar, Pakistan — KP bans large gatherings, indoor marriages, makes masks compulsory

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has banned large gatherings in the province as it intensifies curbs to stem the virus’s spread.

According to a notification from the interior ministry, indoor marriages have been banned, while outdoor have been permitted with an upper limit of 300 people.

The government has made wearing masks compulsory in public spaces and transport.

The notification warned that action will be taken against people if they are found in violation of these Standard Operation

4:50 — Karachi, Pakistan — Smart lockdown to be imposed in four districts, micro lockdown in two

Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani, chaired a meeting, where it was decided that smart lockdown will be imposed in four districts and micro lockdown in two.

The meeting, attended by deputy commissioners and district health officers, decided to impose smart lockdown in districts south, west, central, and east.

Meanwhile, micro lockdown will be imposed in districts Korangi and Malir.

The lockdowns are expected to come into effect with in a day or

02:50pm – Peshawar, Pakistan- KP govt denies PDM permission to hold rally on Nov 22

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday denied permission to Pakistan Democratic Movement to hold a public gathering in Peshawar on November 22.

The notification said the matter was considered by the district administration and capital city police under Section 14 of the KP Civil Administration Act 2020. The government officials did a field assessment and held a meeting with the jalsa organisers.

But, citing a November 2 notification issued by the KP government banning large public gatherings owing to the rising coronavirus positivity rate in the community, the deputy commissioner denied permission to hold the jalsa "after considering all aspects, and to safeguard human lives due to potential spread of COVID-19."

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02:15pm — Washington, US - Pakistan-born doctor appointed state's health minister to lead COVID-19 response

WASHINGTON: Pakistan-born Dr Umair A Shah has been appointed secretary of health for the state of Washington in the United States to lead the coronavirus response amid rising number of cases.

"Dr Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health," said Washington Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. “His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic. He is uniquely suited to continue our nation-leading response."

Currently serving as an executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health (HCPH) in Texas, Dr Shah is an immigrant from Pakistan who grew up in Ohio. "Equity is incorporated and considered in every decision as he leads organisations to ensure health and safety of everyone," added the governor. 

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1:20 pm — WHO advises against Gilead's remdesivir for all hospitalised COVID-19 patients

LONDON: Gilead’s remdesivir is not recommended for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, regardless of how ill they are, as there is no evidence the drug improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation, a World Health Organisation panel said on Friday.

“The ... panel found a lack of evidence that remdesivir improved outcomes that matter to patients such as reduced mortality need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and others,” the guideline said.

1:00 pm — Mutations, marriages or mausam — What's driving up coronavirus cases in Pakistan?

As the second wave of coronavirus sweeps over Pakistan, authorities are more concerned about social interactions and seasonal viral infections compounding the spread of COVID-19 in communities than reports of it mutating and getting deadlier than before.

“As far as the virus is concerned — fundamentally and how it is affecting us — it has not changed in any substantial or measurable way,” Special Assistant to the PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said at a WHO press briefing on Thursday.

“Whether it does change in the future, only time will tell," he added.

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12:45 pm — Mexico City, Mexico — Mexico marks grim coronavirus milestone, passes 100,000 deaths

Mexico, the most populous country in the Spanish-speaking world, has registered 100,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths within days of passing the grim milestone of one million infections, official data showed on Friday.

Mexico’s official death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, is among the highest worldwide, and in the Americas lags only behind the United States and Brazil.

12:20 pm — Beijing, China —  Mainland China reports 17 new COVID-19 cases vs. 12 a day earlier

Mainland China reported 17 new COVID-19 cases on November 19, up from 12 a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Friday.

The National Health Commission said all new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed infections, also rose to 14 from 10 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections to date in Mainland China stands at 86,398 cases, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

12:00 pm —  Lahore, Pakistan — Punjab govt bans large indoor weddings: notification

The Punjab government has issued a notification banning celebrations inside wedding halls.

According to the notification issued by the primary and secondary health care department secretary, weddings and other celebrations will be allowed only in open spaces.

A maximum of 300 people will be allowed to participate, while SOPs will also have to be implemented strictly.

The ban will be effective from November 20 to January 31.

11: 45 am —  Bengaluru, India —  India's total coronavirus infections cross nine million

India crossed the grim milestone of nine million coronavirus cases with 45,882 new infections recorded in the last 24 hours, its health ministry said on Friday.

India is the second country to cross nine million coronavirus infections after the United States. But cases have slowed down in the country after hitting a peak in September.

Deaths rose by 584, with the total now at 132,162, the health ministry said. Government officials and experts have warned that the country could still see a spike after Diwali was celebrated this month.

11: 33 am — Toronto, Canada — Canada on track to hit 20,000 COVID-19 cases a day by end of December

Canada is on track to record 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day by the end of December, several media outlets reported Thursday, citing new modelling data by the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

It shows a worst-case scenario of 60,000 new cases per day if social contacts rise, the Globe and Mail newspaper and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

11: 15 am — Karachi, Pakistan — Sindh convenes meeting on schools’ closure amid coronavirus cases resurge

The Sindh education department summoned on Friday a meeting to deliberate shutting down schools and colleges as coronavirus cases mushroom across Pakistan.

The meeting will be attended by representatives of the private schools association.

Stakeholders will consider recommendations made by the federal government with regard to educational institutes.

11:00 am —  Islamabad, Pakistan — Pakistan reports 36 new deaths in last 24 hours

A total of 2,738 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 368,665. With 36 new deaths, the country's coronavirus death toll reached 7,561. 

So far, a total of 327,542 people have recovered from the virus while the active number of cases stands at 33,562.

With 42,909 tests conducted across Pakistan, the positivity rate has reached 6.3%.